Face Noir from MAD ORANGE/PHOENIX Studios is a point and click adventure in the style of Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler and other noir detectives of the late 40's.
You should know from the start that this is not going to end totally satisfactorily as the story continues with the next game beginning in Damascus, Syria. But having said this I
am not intending to put you off playing, in fact I am trying to whet your appetite. The dark visuals, generally with rain falling to enhance the dismallity of the situation, sets the
scene perfectly, and the main character's outlook on life and grumpy attitude puts him in contention with the likes of Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer, his voice over narration
being akin to that seen in the movies of these great detectives.
The adventure begins in an innoculous way as do most of the Marlowe/Hammer books and films. In this case though it isn't a curvy brunette with legs that never seem to end who
walks (sashays ?) into his office. Harvey Webber is a man of means and substance but he is worried his daughter Susan is having an affair with a man who may have financial
motives to dating her. Webber hires you (aka Jack del Rio) to take photographs of Susan in intimate embrace with said man. Actually the game begins with Jack attempting to
prevent a plane taking off and then getting shot, presumably dying, then we get the perfunctory flashback and the situation leading up to the shooting unfolds with you collecting
clues and interviewing everyone you came in contact with.
The game play is a mixture of you moving Jack around, searching, talking, etc, cut scenes where you watch a specific piece of action that you cannot interact with or will soon be
interacting with (such as picking a lock) and the puzzle or challenge which has generally been set up by Jack's action triggering a cut-scene. below you can see some screenshots
of one of the Lockpicking challenges you/Jack faces. The pick on the right remains stationary while you move the other pick back and forth until it clicks 3-4 times and the lock
There is a dark story that Jack uncovers after taking what at first appears to be a mundane job. Quite often you are presented with a list of questions to ask someone when you encounter
them. To get the response you require you need to ask the correct question first. If you don't you may have to say goodbye to the person and then reopen the dialogue and begin again.
Like all of the point and click adventures this and other parts are frustrating. For instance I wanted to go into an alley but there was a locked gate. I tried my lockpicks but it was not to
be opened. After questioning the hotel owner a couple of times and doing a few other things I found myself again at this locked fence where my lockpicks now worked. I usually prefer
games where I can go where I want, pick up what I want to (there are some metal pipes on the floor in the alley for example) although I can pick up one and use it on the manhole/drain
I cannot pick up another one. This just means that I have to get into the game-mind and do the logical things illogically. Once I let the atmosphere wash over me and got into the mindset
of the gameplay and I immersed myself in the story I quickly forgot my little foibles and my frustrations just melted away.
There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, going in and out of buildings etc. If you watched a movie where the detective went into a builsding, spoke to someone, then went outside, looked around
then went back in and spoke some more then repeated these actions 3 or 4 times you would wonder what the heck was going on. That's how I feel when I can't take a sweet or a pipe or go
here or there until a triggered action allows me to. I understand that you need all the clues to solve the puzzles but it shouldn't matter in which order you collect them.
Here are a few of the puzzles that will challenge you as your detecting brings you into contact with the Black Lily crime syndicate, just what has Jack got himself involved in ?
This now also asks Jack who can he trust and who is a member of the Black Lily ? Then of course always in the back of your mind is Jack being shot and killed during the main
introduction. Does this really happen ? Is it all over for Jack and you are simply going through the last moments of his life ? or can you succeed and change the proposed course
of his fate ?
With point and click adventures you really have to involve yourself in the story otherwise you are just clicking around the screen until something happens. With this game the
designers have built in a Hot Spot detector (F1) which when pressed shows all the possible places where interaction can take place. This is an allowable cheat as it helps with the
flow and speed of the investigation.
This is a high quality adventure with a strong storyline that really does capture the spirit of the detective noir era. Great stuff !